on January 3, 2012
Short version: MW3 is not worth $60, but is not a bad game. If MW1 didn't exist, maybe Activision could consider charging a premium price for this game, but as it stands, MW3 is just a bit better than MW2. MW1 is still much better than both and can be had quite cheaply. I paid $45 for my MW3 and, not having paid a premium price for it, don't feel dirty. I recommend others also wait for a price drop rather than pay Activision's premium price for an Xbox port that still lacks features that MW had 5 years ago.
To anyone who has played MW2, there's no surprises here. To those who have never played Call of Duty or specifically the MW series: This is not a tactical shooter. The campaign is a set-piece action story/shooter, like being in a movie made by Michael Bay and Tom Clancy (and, at times, equally ridiculous.) You move through the game along a specific path, oohing and ahhing at the explosions and effects and you shoot anything that happens to enter the frame. This isn't necessarily bad, but it isn't for everyone. The multiplayer is also more run-and-gun than tactical shooter. Hardcore modes of play make it a bit more realistic, but still this is not Ghost Recon.
Although nobody would like to crack skulls of Infinity Ward and Activision more than me following MW2's disastrous PC release, I must defend some aspects of MW3. Seriously, I have no idea why they made the ridiculously, almost comically stupid, decision to simply to a straight port of MW2 from Xbox to PC. All they had to do was leave in stuff that MW1 already had--dedicated servers, high player counts, and LEAN--and probably MW2 would have been hailed as the best thing evarr. They did not do this and the PC gaming community was rightly outraged. Indeed, more than 2 years since MW2 has been released, its crappy match-making system still doesn't really work; completely unacceptable for a game that cost $60 plus additional costs for map packs (without which you will not be able to play.) These are the sorts of obviously terrible decisions that when a company head makes them, the company would cease to exist in a rational universe.
Instead, we get MW3. So did Infinity Ward/Activision learn anything from the MW2 debacle? Well, they learned a little.
Campaign: The campaign is fairly short. I completed it in a weekend on the second-to-hardest setting. I believe this was due more to the campaigns getting easier than it is reduced content. I noticed that most levels I breezed through. MW1's campaign had me replaying the same part over and over again trying to get past it, which added to the length. However, it does seem like the MW3 campaign is easier than the MW2 campaign which was easier than the MW1 campaign, and it's just gotten too easy. That said, I don't mind the fact that I don't have to replay the same section over and over again very often, as it's a very "puzzle-like" experience rather than an interesting tactical challenge, and shooting at NPC badguys gets repetitive after awhile. The few parts I did need to play again and again to get past were not more entertaining because of it.
The campaign is quite linear, you don't really have freedom of movement or decision, but that's a design choice really, not a failing. Games that are story-driven and have set-piece sequences tend to be more linear because the player needs to be in the right place at the right time to see them. Decide for yourself if that's for you.
Some parts of the campaign are ridiculous, namely the Russian Atlantic fleet being in New York harbor for some reason. Suffice to say in MW's world, the USN apparently doesn't exist at all (or the Russian fleet would have a helluva time crossing the Atlantic Ocean), but a small team of Delta Force operators taking down one jamming tower can turn the tide of a world war instantly. But let's be fair: This is a video game. And even though it is ridiculous, it's not really more ridiculous than some of Clancy's novels, which ostensibly should be more serious.
Bottom line is they finish the story, it's fairly entertaining (if unrealistic), they don't really break any new ground (in fact, some parts of some missions are exactly the same as from MW2 and MW1, even down to the dialog), but it's pretty well what you would expect, so I don't really get some of the criticisms of the campaign.
Multiplayer: Dedicated servers are back, but I agree with others that they are clearly an add-on, much like an afterthought, and IW probably had to be arm-twisted by Activision to put them in. Ridiculous. And getting them working is inconvenient and confusing. But they do work and exist. I'm not awarding points for IW putting back in a feature that's been in games for more than a decade, though.
I mistakenly thought that with Dedicated Servers in MW3, you had to rank up first in match-making servers to unlock weapons. This is not the case: On dedicated servers, everything is unlocked already. This is fine with me because I don't care about unlocking things and ranking up, but as of now, the dedicated servers are not heavily populated, so this may matter to other players.
Match-making is still considered the primary way to play. I must say the match-making is quite improved. No idea why this isn't fixed in MW2, but in MW3, I can get into a match-making game immediately instead of ten minutes after starting the game. In general, it just plays much, much better. I won't say this will be the case for everyone, but for me, I find match-making play actually tolerable. Hackers are still present, but in several hours of play, I encountered only 1 obvious hacker (aimbot.)
Perks and such are not much changed, except the killstreak system has been modified. Really not a lot to say about this as it isn't that big of a change.
My main gripe is the same as with MW2: It doesn't play like MW1. By that I mean that if I went into a team-style game on MW1, there would be "sides" of the map. One team would control one side and try to take the other from the other team. Some combination of map size and low player counts make this impossible in MW2 and 3, and this makes the multiplayer play more like randomly running around shooting. Team Deathmatch comes off more like Free-For-All.
Also, sniping seems to be a waste of time. MW1 was set up to support snipers, MW2 less so, MW3 seems even less so. There just aren't enough players to protect snipers from SMG's and there aren't enough areas with long ranges for snipers to be very useful (and with lower player counts, it's less likely you'll see an enemy run through your sniping area, too.) Shotguns seem underpowered, as well. I may change my mind about sniping and shotties over time as I gain skill and better understanding of the MW3 maps, but today I feel like assault rifles and SMG's are really the only guns that make any real sense the way the maps are laid out and the way the game works.
Seems that perks are better balanced than in MW2, I haven't seen anyone owning everyone with grenade launchers and such, but again my opinion on that could change. MW3 seems like airpower is a pretty tolerable level.
One thing that is improved over the previous MW's: Sound. The game sounds good with a good sound system or top-quality headphones. The guns sound really good, and this matters quite a bit.
Conclusion: This is again an Xbox port, but this time it isn't nearly so crappy. Sounds are good. Campaign is too easy, some parts absurd, but otherwise good. Multiplayer has dedicated servers as a sort of afterthought. Match-making works a lot better now. Still can't have more than 18 players, which is absurd. Still no lean? Gimme a break, Infinity Ward. Don't pay $60 for this.